"Will the Mormons fight?" is a question which every observer of public affairs is now asking. As to their disposition to fight there can be no doubt. Not only did they resist at Nauvoo when the odds were almost as great against them as now, and their defeat equally certain; but their whole system is essentially one of violent and vindictive antagonism. They have all sworn "to cherish hatred and hostility to the American Government;" they feel that the success of their Church consists in triumph over the whole world; and must naturally only regard the commencement of war as the dawning of their victory. Nothing is further from Brigham Young's mind to-day than retreat. He has called in the settlers who were established at San Bernardino, and who would have protected his march into Sonora had that been his intention. He has broken up his Oregon settlements, which he would not have done had he dreamed of retiring to British or Russian America. He has strengthened his center at Salt Lake, and fortified the mountain passes. His harangues to the people, which they regard as the word of God, breathe the most passionate spirit of active and extreme resistance, and cannot be retracted if he would retain his influence over them.
The Mormons will resist, but the vigor and duration of that resistance must depend on their resources. These, however exaggerated by false reports, are not very great. It is well known that, up to the year 1853, the Mormons sold all their surplus produce to California emigrants, who furnished them with their only market, and who consequently induced enterprising merchants to import large supplies of commodities and luxuries into their settlements. At that time, not one farmer out of a hundred had more provisions stored than would supply his own family beyond the anticipated harvest. There were no public granaries; for, as they always relied upon the coming crops, none thought of allowing property to remain idle in the form of stored provisions. In 1854, '55 and '56, their crops were almost entirely ruined by grasshoppers, smut, the blue worm, drouth, and extreme scarcity of water for irrigation. Thousands were then dragging out a miserable and precarious existence by subsisting on wild roots and boiled weeds; and Young told them "that these "were the punishments of God upon them because “they had not saved their grain." Their live stock was in the same case. All their surplus cattle had been driven off yearly to California, and disposed of there for mules, money and merchandise. A great part of their receipts from this source have been sunk in their ridiculously extravagant temple and walls. The deep snows during the Winters of 1854-55 and 1855-56 buried up all the pasture, and their cattle died by thousands; so that in 1856, the whole church could not provide teams for the importation from Leavenworth of a train of Mormon merchandise. Meat was then a luxury at Salt Lake, purchasable only for cash, which never was scarcer than at that time. It is thus certain that, until the harvests of 1857, the Mormons were suffering severely from scarcity; and consequently, whatever provisions they may now possess they must have obtained since that time. If we may credit their statements when they have so strong an inducement to exaggerate, they had very heavy crops last year, and they cut sufficient hay to preserve their young stock during the Winter; but, whether light or heavy, this is all their present supply.
On the other hand, they will have reaped the harvests of the coming season before the commencement of active hostilities. The troops at Fort Bridger are not to move until the Peace Commissioners have entered on their mission and reenforcements have arrived. This will take until June, and the Mormons will find a thousand pretexts to put off their final answer to the Commissioners as long as possible. It is most probable that all decisive action will thus be delayed till the middle of July or even later, and by that time they will have gathered the harvest of 1858. This will very materially increase their stores, but still such stores are inefficient when compared with the demands that will be made upon them. They had a large emigration last year, as well from the settlements they broke up as from the East, and all these brought no provisions. In the event of their "burning their city and retiring into the moun-"tains" as they threaten, the loss and waste of provisions in forced marches will be enormous. While it is thus with their stores, they are similarly deficient in ammunition of all kinds. Before the departure of the United States troops for Utah, there was not a great deal of gun powder in Salt Lake City. Each man was compelled by law to keep a supply, but it was not a large quantity, and much of this was used in sporting and exercising. The powder that they produced was of very inferior quality, coarse and uneven, and often badly dried. They have, however, lately made large importations from California, and, indeed, the road will continue open for them to import all they wish from that quarter for the next three months or even longer. But, for the prosecution of war such supplies must be totally inadequate.
The only formidable resource of the Mormons is, then, to be found in their geographical position and the nature of the country. In the first place, it i so remote from the boundaries, where a sufficiently numerous invading force can be collected, that the animals that convey them will be fitter to die, after transporting men and materials, than to commence an active campaign. The cavalry will especially suffer in this way; and this will be all the more annoying because it is the most efficient arm for such a war. The Mormons, on the other hand, have a numerous, hardy, well-mounted and brave body of horsemen, thoroughly acquainted with the country. Their settlements, too, are only approachable by narrow, rocky gorges, often not more than twelve feet wide, and rising almost precipitously from two hundred to a thousand feet high on either side in many places, where a couple of cannon and a barricade defended by fifty men with a small force on the hills could retard the approach of any army. This kind of country extends for a hundred miles around their settlements, with numerous little secluded valleys, known only to the Mormons themselves, where they can hide and whence they can sally to harass and destroy the invading forces. With regard to the number of men the Mormons can bring into the field, extravagant and absurd representations have been current. Some represent them as numerous and well-disciplined, and others as only a disorderly and inconsiderable rabble. Both these statements are incorrect. At the very outside, they cannot collect a larger force than eight thousand men, with perhaps four thousand youths. These are tolerably well armed, inured to the saddle, acquainted with the mountains, accustomed to hardship, and will fight fiercely. They will make good guerrilla soldiers, but nothing more. Besides, they have no able or experienced leaders, Gen. Wells, a "prophet, priest and king," is their commander, but he has neither genius nor experience. The Indian allies, on whom they so much depend, will also only be useful for guerrilla purposes. They will harass and distress, retard and obstruct the troops, and but very little more. Neither they nor the Mormons can be able to make anything like a successful stand.
It is evident that even Brigham Young does not imagine that he can destroy the army now marching against him. He knows very well that, should he even succeed in destroying this force, next year he would have twenty thousand, or if necessary fifty thousand, men thundering at him from east and west. Although he greatly relies on the temporary success of his defense of the canons, he does not expect it to be more than temporary, for he is hiding grain in all the small valleys among the mountains, and has warned the people that they will probably have to burn their city and destroy their temple. He thus plainly anticipates nothing but a series of defeats, more disastrous to the invaders, however, than to the invaded, after which he must retire to the mountains. It is true that every thing tends to show that the people are determined, and ready to hazard the whole existence of Mormonism on a blow, the more fanatical expecting, no doubt, some miraculous interposition in their behalf. But this can hardly be the case with Brigham Young. He is too selfish to entertain such enthusiastic notions. He can, at the utmost, only cherish a hope that the sight of his broken and scattered people, with starving women and children, may finally incline the nation to pity, and make them leave the Mormons to live in their own way, governed by laws of their own making, and officers of their own choice. He may count, too, on the unwillingness of the country to meet the enormous expense of a prolonged war, and on the distractions that may be afforded by other important affairs. Thus he may possibly anticipate that after a year or two the army will be recalled, the Mormons be allowed to regather around their old homes, and to reestablish their old institutions; when he will easily be able again to reenforce his numbers and consolidate his system anew. Thus he can afford to count the lives of the faithful whom his madness or his guilt shall immolate, as of less value in the great sum of the success and failure of Mormonism than the future believers whom the blood of these martyrs may rally to his cause.
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